Riding a bicycle 590 miles from Los Angeles, California, to
Flagstaff, Arizona, is a daunting challenge for anyone, let alone
for a cancer patient.
But four multiple myeloma patients recently completed that
journey as part of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation's
(MMRF) Road to Victories Ride - a 3,400-mile journey across America
to raise funds and awareness for a cancer that will strike about
30,000 Americans this year.
TGen assistant professor Jonathan Keats joined the group of
about 20 riders for the 50-mile, 5,000-foot climb from Cottonwood,
Arizona to Flagstaff on September 9.
"It's a lot of going uphill," said Dr. Keats, who used to have a
Canadian professional mountain biking racing license. "But it was a
pretty slow ride. No one was hammering on it, and it was enough of
a ride for me, considering the other people had already done 540
Dr. Keats leads the scientific arm of the MMRF-funded CoMMpass
study, which uses a patient's genetic profile to inform multiple
myeloma treatment. In its sixth year, CoMMpass is the largest
cancer genomics study in the world with 1,000 patients who have
undergone whole genome, whole exome, and RNA sequencing, including
almost 200 patients who have relapsed during treatment.
Historically, average survival from diagnosis for multiple
myeloma patients was three years, and today it's about seven. Four
of the riders on Dr. Keats' leg of Road to Victories were patients.
One had kidney disease and had to get multiple IV treatments during
the week-long ride. Another had undergone 12 bone marrow biopsies,
but that didn't stop them from enjoying the ride.
"When I started this research in 1999, patients took their
chemotherapy, a derivative of mustard gas, with their steroids, and
they hoped to enjoy a few more holidays with family," he said. "But
today a high percentage achieve a complete response and we suspect
a number are actually cured. It's changed dramatically."
The Road to Victories started on September 2 in Manhattan Beach,
California, and wraps up on October 21 in Fairfield, Connecticut.
You can track their progress at https://endurance.themmrf.org/RoadToVictories
"If there's a success story in that picture, it's that the
treatments for multiple myeloma have progressed enough that there
are patients who are definitely capable of doing this type of
ride," Dr. Keats explained. "It is possible for these people to be
treated and do this, and if not something like this, at least they
walk to the coffee shop with their friends."